DOWNEY – Citing high costs and dubious public benefits, the Downey City Council this week scrapped preliminary plans to install free wireless internet downtown and at Furman Park.
Council members had previously expressed interest in providing no-cost wifi in public places, but a report by city staffers revealed that such a project would be expensive to implement.
Installing wifi in Downey’s downtown district, for example, would cost between $42,159 and $48,747, depending on whether the city used its own fiber optic system or leased its internet access via a carrier, such as Time Warner Cable.
Tapping into its own fiber optic system to provide internet downtown would be cheaper but would likely slow down internet access for workers at City Hall, said IT manager Alvin Lam.
Bringing wireless internet to Furman Park would be similarly expensive.
According to Lam, the city would have to dig a trench to run a fiber optic line from Firestone Boulevard and Rives Avenue to the park, at a cost of more than $110,000.
Another option would be to lease a cable or fiber optic line from Time Warner Cable or Telepacific, which would cost about $21,588.
Recurring annual costs could reach $44,000, Lam said.
Council members balked at the numbers and questioned the benefits of free wireless internet, particularly at Furman Park.
“It seems like the opposite thing you’d want to do at the park,” said Councilman Sean Ashton. “I’m also concerned it would bring the wrong element to our parks.”
Councilman Roger Brossmer said he would “love to be able” to install wireless internet for public benefit but only “if we had ample budget.”
Brossmer, who is an assistant superintendent with the Downey Unified School District, said Downey schools are already investing in wireless internet for students during after-school hours.
Councilman Fernando Vasquez did not participate in the discussion relating to internet access downtown due to a potential conflict of interest. He is in the process of purchasing property in the area.